I just saw a segment on Baseball Tonight about the best one-two offensive punches in baseball. So here’s my top ten in order without explanation…
1. Joe Mauer / Justin Morneau MIN
2. Carlos Pena / Evan Longoria TB
3. Chase Utley / Ryan Howard PHI
4. Mark Teixiera / Alex Rodriguez NYY
5. Ryan Zimmerman / Adam Dunn WAS
6. Adam Jones / Nick Markakis BAL
7. Kevin Youkilis / Jason Bay BOS
8. Carlos Beltran / David Wright NYM
9. Michael Young / Josh Hamilton TEX
10. Ryan Braun / Prince Fielder MIL
Wild Card: Todd Helton / Brad Hawpe COL
Season Preview: Washington Nationals
Projected MLB Rank: 29th — NL Rank: 16th — NL East Rank: 5th — Record: (64-98)
Don’t worry Nats fans. One year you will get to see your team finish over .500, that year just isn’t this one. Not since the the Montreal Expos moved to Washington to become the Nationals have the they broke the .500 mark. Their first season in the nation’s capital was their best when they finished at 81-81 but they still occupied the bottom spot in the NL East that year. Tough luck. The Nats are the weakest team in this very tough division. Once again, tough luck.
The lineup is talented as they’ve added some pop with Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn. Most of the positions are set in stone but the only questionable one where there is some competition is second base. Anderson Hernandez is the expected starter followed by Ronnie Belliard and Willie Harris. Hernandez can hit for .300 and will steal you a base every so often. Belliard has more pop and is a nice veteran option if Hernandez doesn’t pan out as planned.
The big question about the projected everyday starters is health. Ryan Zimmerman spent some time on the DL last season with shoulder and throwing hand problems (106 games in 2009). Willingham has been known to get injured year after year (102 games). Those two bats will most likely protect lefty Adam Dunn in the batting order, so it’s essential for them to stay healthy.
The biggest weakness for the Nats is pitching. Their rotation is borderline atrocious and the bullpen isn’t much better. Southpaws John Lannan and Scott Olsen are the par brightspots in the Nats rotation. With righthander Daniel Cabrera, it depends on the day. He is very erratic (career 5.05 ERA) due to the fact that he can get rocked in four innings if he doesn’t have his stuff but he can also take you the distance (2 CG last season). Jordan Zimmerman (the other Zimmerman) is the Nationals top pitching prospect and will look to break the rotation in ’09. The 22 year old has been impressing coaches thus far in spring training.
The bullpen looks shaky as of now. Former starter Jason Bergmann has been moved to the ‘pen and will be considered a mid-reliever after a bad 2008 performance. Steven Shell had a very nice year last season with a 2.16 ERA in 39 appearences. Righty, Saul Rivera, lead the team in relief appearences last year with 76 while harnessing a 3.96 ERA.
The closer appears to be 27 year old Joel Hanrahan. He notched nine saves after he picked up the role last season when Chad Cordero went down with an injury and big righty Jon Rauch was dealt. In the ninth inning, Hanrahan held hitters to a .219 average last season. He has the typical closer arsenal of fastball/slider and he also is working on a changeup.
The Nats always seem to be on the up, but the established veterans that they have aren’t going to stay at the same talent level they’re at now. It seems like it may be hard for this team to compete, not just this year, but for a few years to come.
I am going to try to make this my last post about A-Rod, steroids, etc, etc. But I got thinking who is next in line to capture the homerun record as their own fully clean, as far as we know. Rodriguez was supposed to be our savoir from Barry, Balco, Big Mac, and Juiced but, well, you all know the story forwards and backwards now (at least we think we do). So who could potentially top Bonds and take Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s record from him and not have an asterisk surrounding his name?
In his eight year career, Pujols has slugged 319 homeruns averaging almost 40 homeruns a season. He is one of the best right-handed hitters in the game right now, if not the best. He is 29 years old and if he can average 37 homeruns over the next twelve seasons, he will have 763 homeruns, one more than Bonds. By that time he will be 41 years old. Bonds was 42 when he broke* Aaron’s record of 755. Pujols’ career high came in 2006 when he hit 49 dingers (and he only played in 143 games that year).
POSSIBILITY: MOST LIKELY
Ken Griffey Jr.
The closest among all active clean players with 611 homeruns (are Bonds and Sammy Sosa even active anymore?). Junior’s back in the Emerald City where he hit his first 398 homeruns. Since then, the new millenium hasn’t treated Griffey well as he has been plagued by injuries and years of not contending (until his trade to the White Sox last year). Since 2000, he’s topped out at 40 homeruns (2000) and is 151 homeruns away at 39 years old. He would need to play five more seasons and average just over 30 homeruns over that span to break take the top spot from Barry.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Over four years into his career he has connected for 177 homeruns. His 162-game average in homeruns is 50 per year. He has 586 homeruns to go if he wants to take away the title from Bonds he will need to average 46 homeruns over the next 13 seasons. However, he goes into slumps like it’s in his contract. But when his bat is hot, the lumber is on fire. Another problem is that he didn’t come up to the big leagues and stay up until he was 25 and he didn’t play his first full season until he was 26. He is 29 this season and if he only plays until he is 40 he will need to muster over 53 homeruns per season. Becoming a member of the 500 homerun club should be his first priority.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Dunn has raw power and has hit 278 homeruns over his eight year career averaging just under 35 per season. He is also 29 this season and needs 485 homeruns to break the record. He would need to average 45 homeruns over the next 11 seasons to conquer that feat and has only hit over 40 homeruns once (46 in 2004). I would say that he have the same priority as Howard, join the 500 homerun club first and then see where he’s at.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Let’s let him find a team first. But he needs 236 more homeruns and he is 36 years old. He would need to average just over 47 homeruns in the next five seasons and about 34 homeruns if he were to play seven more seasons.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Others who would need a prayer to break it:
Jim Thome, Vlad Guerrero
Too early to tell:
Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Prince Fielder
Bobby Abreu has signed a one-year deal with the Angels, reportedly at five-million dollars plus incentives. Abreu will be 35 years old on opening day and may have lost some pop and production but his career numbers don’t lie.
Abreu will fit nicely into a lineup that boasts of veteran right-handed power and the Angels desperately needed to replace at least a chunk of the production they lost when Mark Texeira signed with the Yankees.
The signing of Abreu moves Juan Rivera to the DH spot and Abreu, with his speed, will assume left field. Abreu at age 34 stole 22 bases last year for the Yanks. Abreu can be placed anywhere between the three-hole and the five-hole in the Halos lineup. Free agent Garrett Anderson had plenty of success hitting behind slugger Vlad Guerrero so expect expect Abreu’s usual 100 RBIs and maybe high teens/early twenties in homeruns.
The only question I have to the Angels is why another outfielder? You are outfield heavy. Heavy. They’re already paying Vlad $15.5 million this year, Torii Hunter $16.5 million, Gary Matthews Jr. $9.4 million, and they also have Juan Rivera and Reggie Willits. I understand the desperate need for a lefty and a producer–but now they have five outfielders who could legitimately be starters (with the exception of Willits).
If they all stay healthy and start the season looking good, I could see the Angels dealing one of them.
Another productive lefty signed recently as well. Big six foot six inch Adam Dunn takes his powerful bat to the nation’s capital as he signed a two-year twenty-million dollar deal with the Nationals
It was a good move for the Nationals and it makes the already competitive NL East, even more competitive. I still do not see the Nationals contending but maybe they’ll produce 70 wins (still a stretch, I know). They can’t do much worse than the dismal 59 wins they squeezed out in 2008 and Dunn will be a big contributer.
Dunn, 29, has hit atleast 40 homeruns in each season since 2004. He has 278 career homers and 672 RBIs over his 8-year career (mostly with Cincinnati). The Nationals after reportedly preparing huge offers to Mark Texeira and Manny Ramirez, clearly had money and they needed to bring in some kind of production to avoid another 2008. Dunn is their solution. They are also given the option of possibly dealing first-baseman Nick Johnson for some pitching help because I assume Dunn will play first because of Josh Willingham, Lastings Milledge, and Elijah Dukes in the outfield.
The Nats still do not have the pitching to compete and still may be missing some offensive pieces, but they are taking steps in the right direction.
I haven’t written in a while, a long while. So for the few (or none) that read this, I apologize.
So Manny Ramirez turned down a one-year $25 million contract offer from the Dodgers today. He needs to realize that if he hasn’t been offered a multi-year deal at this point, he is not going to get it at the price he wants. There’s no doubt in my mind that Manny will be signed by the time Spring Training games start. He is only one of the best right-handed hitters of all time. At 36 years young, he came off a season in which he hit .332 overall with 37 homeruns. He was the most deadly hitter in the game after the deal that sent him from Boston to Hollywood.
So who wouldn’t want him in their lineup? No one. Who wouldn’t want the annoying antics that come with such a producer over several years? Everyone. But the teams that need the production have to take the good with the bad. So Manny and his career .314 average and 527 homeruns will have to either lower the price for a multi-year deal or take the $25 million for a year from LA.
Three teams where he would “fit”:
Los Angeles Dodgers
Why would they not want him back? Without him, they very well could not have made the playoffs last year. As far as I know he was appreciated in the locker room. If they fail to sign Manny, they will need to go after an Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu because their pitching won’t be as good as it was last year.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants need some kind of offensive threat. They have some of the best pitching in the league so landing Manny would make them a contender in the NL West and would also add to the still talented veterans that they have in Bengie Molina, Randy Winn, Edgar Renteria, and Aaron Rowand.
Los Angeles Angels
Manny moving across town really makes no sense for the Angels who are outfield heavy but would like to replace the production they lost when Texeira signed with the Bombers.
So lets all watch the Manny & Boris Blues continue.